Can tweeting about lunch and sex get you fired?

As anyone knows, I am not a fan of those on Facebook or Twitter who tell me about their lunch … unless it benefits me or others such as the restaurant is giving free food away or the food is making droves of people sick.

This lunchtime tweeting gaff in Salt Lake City became interesting because the questions it raises — it’s truly … ahem .. food for thought.

At approximately 10 a.m. Friday, Oct. 1, a Twitter message was posted on Utah’s award-winning TV news station @KTVX ABC 4 News:

I’m downtown eating. Surrounded by Mormons and repressed sexual energy.”

It was quickly deleted, but not before many Twitterers “retweeted” or responded to the message. By noon Saturday, there were more than 500 messages about the incident on Twitter. Many people like @thisismepurging of Salt Lake City thought it was funny. Monica Bielanko tweeted: “Take heed to those who tweet for work! But thanks for the laugh.”

Amanda Chamberlain, an entertainment reporter from rival KUTV2, even chimed in and wrote: “Being personal with tweets, I like it! haha.” Many people speculated that the person accidentally used the station’s Twitter account instead of the personal feed. @kslStephan, an online content and design director from another TV news competitor, admitted he too has accidentally tweeted on the station’s Twitter feed.

But there were some folks offended by the tweet from the trusted news station. “KTVX has talented staff that can eat, recognize religion / sexual energy, and alienate viewers all at the same time,” tweeted Tyler Whitaker, a technology officer in Utah.

After nearly three hours after the lunchtime tweet, the station finally sent an apology over its Twitter feed:

“A personal tweet went out that in no way is consistent with the station views. This issue has been addressed and we apologize for the tweet.”

KTVX General Manager Matt Jaquint confirmed to Salt Lake Tribune reporters — Sean Means and Vince Horiuchi — that the employee turned in a letter of resignation and station executives accepted it.

The issue won’t go away with the apology as KTVX is now facing mounting criticism from Twitter users who considered the employee dismissal a huge overreaction to an innocent mistake. “How ridiculous that the @ktvx employee quit or was forced to quit over this!” was message that was retweeted by many.

I asked Neal Schaffer, a Newport Beach social media consultant who also serves with me as an officer in the Social Media Club of Orange County, to share with me his advice on how avoid landing yourself in hot water. Hear my audioBoo interview with him.

Have you made a boo-boo in sending out the wrong message? How do you think the station handle the situation? Was KTVX justified in accepting the resignation?

Was it the right move to delete the tweet then send an apology? Or is there a more appropriate way to address the mistake? I’d love to hear what you think.

  • If you wouldn’t print on the front page of a national newspaper, DON’T write it, anywhere, ever, I say. :o) And don’t say it, anywhere, ever.

  • Paul Tran

    Hmmm…I understand why he would Tweet something like that. Twitter and Social Media has fed into our impulse and sharing our thoughts so freely. Not saying that it’s right – it’s just now that you have a platform for which you can share anything and everything, folks have a hard time closing up the flood gates. Be careful, All – hope you can learn from this guy’s mistake!

  • Oooh boy. Those are good points about how freely we share every thought these days vs. Learning to never post stuff you wouldn’t want on the front page of the paper. Social media is becoming its own untamable behemoth! We can at least tame our own tweets.

  • Oh please, when will we stop acting like we are not humans just because we work for someone else.

    Big mistake and if I lived there I would be tweeting how I will not watch their station because of the forced resignation. Besides aren’t Christians suppose to be forgiving, let me open my bible on that one.

    We gotta stop hiding behind do you want it on a billboard, etc…we do far less to killers and rapist in our judicial system. What happened to learning and moving on? If I chopped off a finger every time I made a writing error I would be fingerless.

    Is this a good example of matching punishment with crime really???

  • John Lusher

    Simply amazing. Why in the world would anyone Tweet something like that? My suggestion for this person would be to enter a new line of work and change his name…since that Tweet sunk the persons career…and is now out there forever!

  • I say go ahead and say what you want but only on your own personal twitter account. Anything done on work related accounts should strictly adhere to the rules of your workplace

  • Great post Ted, I had not seen this story. In my opinion they should have reprimanded him, improved process to prevent this type of error from happening, and then apologized to all who were offended. Firing the person, which is essentially what happened, went too far.


  • Ted, as you point out on the podcast, it looks like this was meant to be sent from a personal account, but was accidentally sent from the news account. Still, the source as imaged on your post shows Twitterfeed, so it’s hard to know exactly what happened. Totally inappropriate for an official feed, and for a professional, and in that context I’m not surprised with a forced resignation.

  • J Steele

    hmmmm. it does seem that twitter (and facebook, and …)has opened some holes in filter that USUALLY is in place between our thoughts and our mouth or fingers. Of course any of us would be horrified if some of our thoughts were made public so that’s the beauty of the filter, when it works well. Indiscretion strikes again and…those pesky consequences 🙂

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  • Rochelle Veturis

    Great post Ted. I appreciate the challenging questions you pose. Yes, I’ve accidently sent tweets from a corporate account –that were meant for my personal account. Luckily, I’m not into bashing other people, their race, or religion, so it was pretty harmless. I thought the apology tweet by the station was nicely done. And I agree with the other commenters, how fortunate for us to be able to learn from this person’s mistake.

  • Sid

    Hey, actions have consequences but let’s make the punishment fit the crime.

    It was an accident and I am 100% that there will be no fewer followers or viewers for that station.

    Was the guy a good worker? Did he do his job better than others? If he did then I wouldn’t have excepted his resignation. Good talent is hard to find but even the best make innocent mistakes.

    As far as the appropriateness of the tweet, I fail to see the issue. I actually find it a little offensive that so many would lash out at the guy for what he said but then consume hundreds of hours of TV and movies that contain actually offensive stuff. We either need to grow up or make up our minds.

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  • Bridget Willard

    Two words: common sense

    Thanks for the blog post Ted; as a;ways, you rock.

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  • As another commenter said, it would have no bearing on whether I hired the individual to work for me or not. I’m Catholic. Yeah, a lot of us are pretty repressed (so my children tell me). It’s not like he spray-painted graffiti on the church.

    It seems like a really stupid thing to fire a person over and that some people get WAY too easily offended. I would look at whether the guy did a good job (as someone else mentioned) and suggest he not tweet about Mormons any more. End of discussion.

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